New Species of Centipede Snake Discovered by Townsend and Students

Posted on 4/9/2013 10:28:09 AM

Close-up of the head of Tantilla olympia Joe Townsend (Department of Biology) and Melissa Medina (IUP Biology graduate student) have coauthored a paper in the latest issue of Journal of Herpetology describing a new species of rare centipede snake from northern Honduras.

Right: Close-up of the head of Tantilla olympia

Along with collaborators Larry Wilson and Luis Herrera from Honduras, Townsend and Medina report the discovery of the new species, which they name Tantilla olympia, from Texíguat Wildlife Refuge in northern Honduras. The only known specimen of this distinctive new species was found in a deep, trench-like trail that leads high into the cloud forest of Texíguat. The trail acts as a trap for small, ground-dwelling animals like Tantilla, which fall into the trail and have trouble climbing out.

Tantilla_Trench-smallLeft: Melissa Medina (front) and the expedition team hiking up the trail where Tantilla olympia was discovered

This is not the first new species Townsend and Medina have found in Texíguat, which is one of the most important areas for endemic biodiversity in Central America. They will soon publish a paper describing another new species of snake from Texíguat, and Biology honors student Catie Krygeris is studying a population of stream treefrogs from Texíguat that also appears to represent a new species.

Department of Biology